NFL Preview: 5 Burning Questions for the Pittsburgh Steelers

Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 preview: they are currently the second choice from the AFC to win the 2018 Super Bowl, behind the Patriots. The odds on the Steelers are 11 to 1. In 2016, Pittsburgh had another great regular season.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 Preview

The Steelers went 11 and 5. They ended the regular season winning 7 straight. During the AFC Playoffs, Pitt beat Miami 30 to 12 in the Wildcard Round. In the AFC Divisional Playoffs, the Steelers took down the Kansas City Chiefs 18 to 16 in Kansas City.
Pittsburgh made it all the way to the AFC Championship. There, the Steelers lost to eventual Super Bowl winner New England. There are high expectations in Steel Town for Pitt to go all the way.

Check out 5 questions for Pittsburgh going into this NFL Season!

When Will Big Ben Finally Hit the Wall?

Every quarterback hits the Wall. No QB is safe. When a QB hits the Wall, like Peyton Manning in Denver, it’s sudden. It’s devastating. For the greats, hitting the Wall is the end of an era. Is this the season when Big Ben rams into the Wall?

It could be. Big Ben Roethlisberger has been one of the very best quarterbacks since entering the league in the 2004-2005 NFL Season. He’s thrown for an incredible 46,814 yards. He’s tossed 301 TDs to only 160 picks. His career QB rating is 94.1.

Last season, Big Ben started 14 of 16 regular season games. Roethlisberger threw for 3,819 yards. He tossed 29 touchdown passes, and only threw 13 interceptions. He completed over 64% of his passes. His QB rating was 95.4.

Those aren’t Roethlisberger’s best stats during his NFL career. However, they aren’t bad. But if Roethlisberger has hit the Wall, his stats could tremendously slide. Roethlisberger isn’t like any other quarterback in the NFL. He’s a sure-fire NFL Hall of Fame signal caller. His bust is assured to be in Canton 5 years after he retires.

He’s also the unquestioned leader of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Without Big Ben at 100%, Pitt could have some issues. That goes without writing. So, the question remains…has Big Ben hit the Wall? Only time will tell.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 Preview: What’s Up with RB Le’Veon Bell?

One of the best players in the NFL when he’s healthy, Bell has had issues staying on the gridiron. In the 2015-2016 NFL Season, Bell started only 6 games. He rushed for 556 yards,  scored 3 rushing TDs, and caught 24 passes for 136 yards.

Due to a 4-game suspension, Bell only started 12 games last season. Although he played in only 12 games, Bell caught 75 passes. That’s a lot of passes to catch in only 12 games. He accumulated 616 receiving yards while catching 2 TD passes. Le’Veon rushed for 1,268 yards. He rushed for 7 TDs.

This season, Bell’s not in danger of being suspended. That’s not the issue. The issue is that Le’Veon has yet to sign his franchise tender-offer. What it means is that Bell may, or may not, be in training camp.

He also had surgery for a groin issue after the season. Since Bell was filmed playing basketball just this past weekend, the groin shouldn’t be an issue. The contract? Yeah, that remains a problem.

More importantly, isn’t Pitt’s upper management tired of the drama? I mean, Le’Veon has been an ongoing thorn in their sides. Again, when he’s on the football field, he’s arguably the best overall player in the NFL. That says a lot. But, trouble, issues, problems, call them what you will, seem to follow Le’Veon every offseason.

If it’s not the suspensions, it’s the injuries. If it’s not the suspensions or injuries, it’s the contract. I know he’s great. But, eventually, all the outside stuff takes a toll on even the most talented NFL players.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 Preview: Will a Wide Receiver Emerge to Compliment Antonio Brown?

Markus Wheaton is gone. Wheaton flew the coop to be with the Chicago Bears. Martavius Bryant is still on the team. So, is Sammie Coates, Darius Heyward-Bey, and Eli Rogers. Justin Hunter is also with the Steelers.

It’s hard for Steeler fans to have faith in any of those guys. One player that the Steelers could show faith in, the wide receiver with the most potential, is Round 2 NFL Draft Pick JuJu Schuster-Smith. Schuster-Smith played at USC.

He was one of the most talented wide receivers in college football last season. If he can get up to speed during training camp, I see JuJu easily taking over as Big Ben’s option B to option A, Antonio Brown, in the Steelers’ passing game.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 Preview: Is the Steel Curtain Back?

This might be the most important question. Pittsburgh’s defense wasn’t nearly as solid as it should have been last season. Historically, the Pitt D is the most talked about unit on the team. Not so anymore.

The bad news is that Pitt’s defense lost Lawrence Timmons and Jarvis Jones. The 2 linebackers were part of an LB corps that yielded 100 rushing yards per game. Pitt drafted LB T.J. Watt. T.J. isn’t nearly as talented as his NFL Defensive MVP brother,

J.J., not yet at least. Still, Pitt got T.J. late in Round 1. He’s a bargain because of that.
DE Tyson Alualu, a free agent signee from Jacksonville, will be counted on to pressure the QB. If Alualu can get pressure on the QB, the secondary should be okay. Corner free agent Coty Sensabaugh is talented. He started 15 games with Tennessee last season. He recorded 44 tackles, 16 assisted tackles, and intercepted 2 passes.

The real key on Pitt’s D is linebacker Bud Dupree. Dupree, Pitt’s 2015 Round 1 pick, only played in 7 games last season. He only started 4 games. In his rookie season, Dupree started only 5 games. It’s time for this former LB prospect to blossom. Pittsburgh’s brass is expecting more than 4.5 sacks a season, which is what Dupree’s done so far in his NFL career.

How Tough is the Steelers’ NFL Regular Season Schedule?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ NFL Regular Season Schedule doesn’t look daunting. Teams in the AFC North battle teams in the NFC North this season. What it means is that Pitt takes on Green Bay, Minnesota, Chicago, and Detroit. That’s 4 potential wins.

Pitt shouldn’t lose to Cleveland, whom they play twice this season, like they always do. That’s 6 wins. A split with the Baltimore Ravens brings the Steelers record to 7 and 1. They should beat Cincinnati twice in 2017. I’m not big on the Bengals’ chances this year.

The record is now 9 and 1. Losses versus New England, at Kansas City, and at Houston, brings the record to 9 and 4. Pittsburgh’s other 3 wins should be versus Jacksonville, at Indianapolis, and versus Tennessee.

I think Pittsburgh finishes at 12 and 4. They’ve got a great chance of securing home field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs.

What are Fair Super Bowl LII Odds on the Pittsburgh Steelers?

I like Pitt going into the 2017-2018 NFL Regular Season. The Steelers made necessary changes on defense, signing Coty Sensabaugh especially, to give me confidence that the D could become one of the best units in the NFL. Both Lawrence Timmons and Jarvis Jones had overstayed their welcome in Steel Town. If Bud Dupree can finally get it together, the unit could hark Steeler fans back to the glory days.

I also love drafting JuJu Schuster-Smith. I’m telling you, the kid is as good as any wide receiver drafted in Round 1. He’s an automatic upgrade to any WR2 on Pitt’s roster. Not only can JuJu start opposite Antonio Brown right away, but he should help Sammie Coates and Darius Heyward-Bey elevate their games.

The big question for me is Ben Roethlisberger. If the QB hasn’t hit the proverbial wall, I think Pitt can go all the way this season. I certainly like them more at 11 to 1 odds to win the Super Bowl than I do the New England Patriots at 3 to 1.

Because Pittsburgh appears to have answers for all my 5 questions, and because of the cupcake schedule, I believe the Steelers are an overlay at 11 to 1. The Super Bowl odds on Pitt should be no worse than 9 to 1.

I believe Pittsburgh should be 9 to 1 to win Super Bowl LII.

What do you think?

Written by D.S. Williamson


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